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Greg Baker - Personal Identifier A8321851

Human Rights ensure basic rights and freedoms.

This essay will discuss the nature of Human Rights legislation and whether it provides

an effective safeguard for the fundamental rights and liberties of the individual.

It will look at the nature of Human Rights legislation: focusing on the laws

surrounding privacy; freedom of expression; and those concerning the discipline of

children and assess both the strengths and weaknesses of this legal methodology.

In order to examine the laws surrounding Human Rights it is first essential to

understand what they are and how they have developed over time into the legal

framework used to support them.

The first international treaty on Human Rights was the Universal Declaration of

Human Rights (the Declaration) in 19481, this set into being some principles that have

since been incorporated in human rights legislation: that they apply to all; may not be

withdrawn; and that no one right is more important than any other right.2 The

Declaration was not law, but rather a code of conduct.

The Council of Europe created the European Convention of Human Rights (the

Convention) in 1950 to provide legal protections for the concepts in the Declaration3.

In 2000 the Labour Government brought the majority of The Convention into English

law with the Human Rights Act (the Act) 1998.

The rights in The Convention and The Act are divided into two categories, those

which are unqualified – that is that they may not under any circumstances be removed
W100 Book 6 Rights Page 31-32 Open University 2009
Ibid page 15
Ibid page 61-62


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by the State, and those which are qualified – that is those for which certain

derogations may apply.

For example Articles 3 and 4 of the Act, which prohibit torture and slavery

respectively are unqualified rights, the Act allows for no circumstance where the State

may countenance a derogation from these rights. The rights to a private life and

freedom of speech (Articles 8 and 10 of the Act) are qualified and there are

circumstances – such as on grounds of national security - where these rights may be

removed from an individual.

There is an in-built competition between the freedoms ensured by Human Rights

legislation. The conflicts between rights to a private life and to freedom of expression

illustrate how this can cause complex legal arguments.

Article 8 of the Act states that there should be: ‘respect for everyone’s private and

family life, home and correspondence’4 This means the right to get on with life

without undue interference. Article 10 of the Act provides the right to pass

information to others and the rights to express opinions and ideas. 5

Until 2000 when the Act came into force, there was no right to privacy under English

Law, however the laws surrounding Breach of Confidence had been used to protect

certain private matters.

The legal nature of confidence was distilled in Coco v A N Clark (engineers) Ltd

(1969) RPC 41 which placed three requirements to show that confidence had been

breached. That: the information was confidential; that was given so as to require
W100 Reader 3 Page 25 Open University 2009
Ibid. page 26


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confidentiality; and that it is used in an unauthorised manner to the detriment of its


This protection of confidence is not absolute, Lord Goff ruling in Attorney General v

Guardian Newspapers [1990] provides three circumstances where confidence would

not be protected under the law. These were: when the information is in the public

domain; when it is trivial; and when there is sufficient public interest in its


Whilst confidence and privacy are superficially similar, there is a fundamental

difference between them: in order to have a confidence there needs to a relationship

between the two parties requiring the confidence; with privacy the question is about

the nature of the information itself.8

This is illustrated by the case of Peck v UK in 1995. Mr. Peck, sought a judicial

review after his initial complaint against the media companies was upheld by the ITC

but was turned down on the grounds that there was no general right to privacy under

English Law. 9 Mr Peck subsequently took his case to the European Court of Human

Rights who upheld his complaint as a breach of his Article 8 rights to a private life.10

This illustrates the essential difference between confidence and privacy, while Peck’s

privacy had been violated, there was no relationship obliging confidence for a breach

to have occurred and therefore no protection under English Law.

W100 Book 6 Rights Page 94 Open University 2009
Ibid. Page 94
McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists 20th edition page 385-386 Oxford University press 2009.
Reader 3 Peck v UK page 42 Open University 2009
Ibid page 42-43


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After The Act went into force the requirement for a relationship of confidence

changed, Lord Justice Sedley said in the Court of Appeal:

“The law no longer needs to construct an artificial relationship of

confidentiality between intruder and victim: it can recognise privacy itself as a

legal principle drawn from the fundamental value of personal autonomy”

(Douglas and Others v Hello! Ltd [2001])11

This was reinforced the following year when the House of Lords ruled that English

Law did provide a channel of recourse against the ‘unjustified publication of private

information’ (Campbell v MGN Ltd [2005]).12

What is most revealing about the Campbell case was the nature of the information that

was provided to the public. There were five distinct elements of the information,

which were: Ms Campbell’s drug addiction; that she was receiving treatment for the

addiction; that the treatment was at Narcotics Anonymous; the details of the

treatment; and a photograph of the model leaving a treatment session.

The presiding judges viewed that, because Ms Campbell had previously denied taking

drugs, the first two elements would be in the public interest to reveal; however the

others were not because of the intrusive nature of the revelations and their likely

impact on her ongoing treatment.13

This ruling begins to define the limits of the right to privacy and freedom of

expression under the law as it currently stands. By making a qualitative judgement on

McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists 20th edition page 386 Oxford University press 2009
Ibid page 386
McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists 20th edition page 411-412 Oxford University press 2009


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the aspects of the Daily Mirror’s story alongside Ms Campbell’s rights to privacy, it

provides an embryonic framework where the public interest in Article 10 rights are

paramount and where they should be subservient to the rights to a private life under

Article 8.

Another area where Article 8 rights come into conflict is in the contentious matter of

parental discipline. Whereas in the previous example the rights in conflict are both

quantified, in the matter of family discipline the argument is between the right to

enjoy a private and family life and the unqualified right to not be subjected to

inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 3 of The Act.

As Article 8 is a qualified right and one of the allowed derogations is in order to

protect others or to prevent crime, the issue is: what form of conduct would breach the

Article 3 rights of the child who is being chastised, or be classified as a crime under

English Law?14

Under English Law the assault offence has been qualified by the defence of

reasonable chastisement. This allowed parents to apply physical punishments to

children within limits without fear of being convicted of assault.15

The standard for which was set out in Cockburn CJ in R v Hopley (1806) which stated

corporal punishment should be moderate and reasonable which was defined as: not

being given in anger or rage; not extreme in its nature or amount; not beyond the

child’s ability to withstand; not administered with an unsuitable implement; or if harm

was intended.16

W100 Reader 3 Page 25-26 Open University 2009
W100 Block 6 Rights, Page 120 Open University 2009
Ibid page 120


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This defence was further refined by the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 which

made it a criminal offence to assault, neglect or mistreat a child in a way that is liable

to cause unnecessary suffering or damage to well-being. However the protection

carried a caveat under section 1 (7) of the Act which provided every parent with the

right to punish their child. 17

As the original defence of reasonable chastisement did not attempt to define the

nature of what counted as reasonable, rather than defined what was not, the common

law defence naturally adapted to fit what was seen as reasonable during the period it

was applied.18

The defence was criticised by the European Court of Human Rights [ECHR] during

the case of A v United Kingdom [1998] 27 EHRR 611. In this case, a nine-year-old

boy had been examined by a doctor and was found to have been beaten with some

considerable force with a garden cane by his stepfather.

The stepfather had been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and,

whilst not denying that he had beaten the boy, claimed the defence of reasonable

chastisement in his defence. The judge advised the jury that the defence could only be

applied if the punishment was reasonable, but did not add any clarification as to what

may have been deemed so. The jury acquitted the defendant on the grounds that the

punishment meted out had indeed been reasonable.19

The case was then referred to the ECHR which held that the boy’s treatment had

contravened his Article 3 rights and ruled that the reasonable chastisement defence

Ibid page 120-121
Ibid page 121
Ibid page 133-4


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had failed to properly protect the boy from such a severe beating. It furthermore found

that the State should be held responsible under The Convention for its failure to

protect vulnerable people from such maltreatment.20

However the court did not go so far as to declare that all forms of physical

punishment would be in violation of Article 3 rights, indeed emphasising that this was

not the nature of its ruling. Rather the court’s ruling prohibited the use of excessive

force, that is where the injury caused would be sufficient to bring about long-term

physical or psychological damage.21

With the promulgation of the Human Rights Act, the rulings of the ECHR had to be

taken into account when deciding matters of English Law requiring the findings of A

v United Kingdom [1998] to be taken into account for any defence of reasonable


Further to this the Government passed the Children Act 2004 which removed the

defence of reasonable chastisement for offences of actual bodily harm, unlawful

wounding, causing grievous bodily harm or child cruelty. The defence did, however,

remain intact when a parent was charged with common assault for smacking. 23

This in effect allowed for the physical punishment by parents of a child so long as the

punishment left no lasting mark, such as a bruise, cut or swelling. While this, on the

face of it, would seem to be a sensible refinement of existing law, it does fail to take

into consideration the differing nature of different children’s physiologies – to put it

bluntly: some children bruise far more easily and for far longer periods than others.
Ibid page 134
Ibid page 134
Ibid page 134
Ibid page 121


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There is a question whether by adding this caveat to the existing reasonable

chastisement defence that the guilt may not so much be in the hands of the chastiser,

but on the skin and capillaries of the chastised.

From the examples above Human Rights legislation can have been said to have acted

in some way as a defender of the basic freedoms of the individual. Although not

having provided an absolute right to privacy in the UK, since the Human Rights Act

1998 privacy has become an important consideration when adjudicating cases of

breach of confidence and the laws that protect children from undue injury by their

parents have become more robust.

However, the competing nature of the laws, together with the nature of their wording,

have created a lack of certitude among many who are subject to them. As shown by

the Campbell case, there is no clear dividing line between the rights of privacy and

those of freedom of expression. Also the definition of reasonable punishment under

the Children’s Act 2004 may potentially allow for injustice because of the fact that a

certain child may bruise easier than another.

It is hard to justify the statement that Human Rights ensure basic rights and freedoms

as they currently stand. Although they can arguably have enhanced the ability to

defend ones rights within the courts, the competing nature of conflicting rights and the

large areas of uncertainty that currently exist would suggest that the legislation falls

far short of ensuring them.

Word Count: 1991


Greg Baker - Personal Identifier A8321851


W100 Reader 3 Open University 2009

W100 Block 6 Rights, Open University 2009

McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists 20th Edition Oxford University Press 2009

Points to Note for Students eTMA 07

The Course Team have provided these points to note to help you with your learning.
Your answer needed be presented in an essay format with an introduction, main body
and conclusion.
The question was asking you to critically analyse a statement drawing on the law of
privacy and family discipline.

A good introduction needed to explain the question and how it would be answered.
An example of a good introduction could have been:
• Consider what the statement means by basic rights and freedoms
• Explore the meaning of basic rights and freedoms within the arena of human
• Draw upon the law in the UK relating to privacy and family discipline to critically
analyse whether human rights ensure basic rights and freedoms

Main body
This needed to be written in a clear and logical manner using a paragraph structure. A
good main body had a clear structure with each paragraph being relevant to the
question asked. The answer should be illustrated with relevant authority i.e. statute or
case law.


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• What are basic rights and freedoms (for example, the UN Charter refers to human
rights and fundamental freedoms)
• what is a human right?
• reason for human rights
• possible limitations on rights and freedoms
Critical analysis of the statement drawing upon privacy and family discipline
There were a number of ways in which this could be approached and credit was given
for any sensible approach which used the areas of privacy and family discipline to
critically analyse the given statement. Answers which just explained the law on
privacy and family discipline were given limited credit.
In relation to privacy a good answer needed to provide a definition of the meaning of
privacy and an explanation of the current law in relation to privacy and whether this
ensures basic rights and freedoms.
• Meaning of privacy
An explanation of the current UK law in relation to privacy. The essay needed to
explain that there is no right to privacy in the UK but those who allege that their
privacy has been invaded commonly rely on the action of ‘breach of the right to
confidence’. Three elements must be proven to show a breach of confidence
[Coco v A N Clark (Engineers) Ltd 1969].
• The information must have ‘the necessary quality of confidence about it’ in
that it is secret or confidential.
• The information ‘must have been imparted in circumstances importing an
obligation of confidence’.
• There must be an ‘unauthorised use of the information to the detriment of
the party communicating it.
• Consideration of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights
• Circumstances in which privacy is not protected
Here the law is often required to balance rights. A good answer needed to consider
why privacy is regarded as a basic right. Areas students may choose to use as
examples may include; national security; police powers of surveillance; freedom of
the press versus individual human rights; freedom of information, privacy and sexual
identity. There should be some consideration of the circumstances in which privacy is
not protected. A conclusion in relation to privacy and the statement given was needed.
Does the law on privacy developed under the area of human rights ensure that basic
rights and freedoms are ensured?
With regard to family discipline the law on corporal punishment in England and
Wales explaining the impact of section 58 Children Act 2004 should have been
The rights of both parents and children in the light of Article 8 of the European
Convention should have been considered. Respect for family and private life and the
Human Rights Act more widely should also have been considered.
• The law on corporal punishment in England and Wales explaining the impact of
section 58 Children Act 2004. Section 58 Children Act 2004 - intended to limit
physical punishment by parents or guardian. If charged with common assault for


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smacking a child then a parent or guardian can raise the defence of ‘reasonable
• The need to consider the rights of both parents and the child in the light of Article
8 of the European Convention and the respect for family and private life and the
Human Rights Act more widely.
Students should provide a conclusion in relation to family discipline and the statement
given. Does the law in relation to family discipline developed under the area of
human rights ensure that basic rights and freedoms are ensured?

The answer needed to end with a sensible conclusion. This needed to draw together
the argument developed through the main body of the answer. The argument and the
conclusion needed be based on a discussion of the evidence presented in the block 6
and bring the reader back tot eh question – a critical evaluation of the statement
considering the law on privacy and family discipline.